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John Deere factory. Radosław Drożdżewski (Zwiadowca21), CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

By Les Leopold / Substack

The greed of the John Deere company is giving President Biden the perfect opportunity to win back working-class voters.  All he needs to do is put up a major fight to stop Deere from shipping U.S. jobs to Mexico.

Really, the company should be renamed “Greed R Us.”  It is laying off approximately 1,000 U.S. workers in Illinois and Iowa while recording $10 billion in profits and paying its CEO $26.7 million.

But the real motivation for Deere to can workers and flee to Mexico is to finance $12.2 billion in stock buybacks.  What are stock buybacks?  A way to boost the price of the company’s shares – a blatant form of stock manipulation that was illegal until deregulated by the Reagan Administration. 

Stock buybacks are a quick and easy way to shovel corporate money straight into the pockets of the company’s largest shareholders, mostly hedge funds and other Wall Street entities, and to the top officers who receive most of their compensation in stock incentives.  When the company rushes into the market and buys back its shares, as listed below, ka ching! The stock price goes up and the biggest shareholders get richer and richer. But it takes a lot of U.S. layoffs to pay for all of this:

April 30, 2024: $1.1B

January 31, 2024: $1.3B

October 31, 2023: $2.6B

July 31, 2023: $2.1B

April 30, 2023: $1.3B

January 31, 2023: $1.3B

October 31, 2022: $1.2B

July 31, 2022: $1.3B

It’s time for Biden to take a page from the Trump playbook. Trump stopped the Carrier Air Conditioning company from moving to Mexico in 2017.  Polling shows that Trump’s effort was extremely popular. Even a third of those who voted for Hillary Clinton had a more favorable view of Trump after he pressured Carrier to keep 800 jobs in Indiana.  

Why did Carrier give in? As its president said, “I was born at night but it wasn’t last night. I also know that about 10 percent of our revenue comes from the U.S. government.”

John Deere also gets considerable revenue from Federal contracts. Its website boasts, “John Deere manufactures every kind of power generating, land moving, base building, grass cutting, people transporting equipment you can imagine through AFNAF, DLA and GSA contracts.”

Biden should let Deere know that they can’t continue to receive taxpayer money if they ship taxpayer jobs to Mexico. He might even threaten to use the Defense Production Act to prevent the move.  He should pressure them to accept a “no compulsory layoff” agreement. If they want to lay off workers, it must be voluntary. The company should offer pay and benefit packages so that workers agree to leave. Clearly, Deere has more than enough money, given what their pumping out in stock buybacks.

Come on Joe, go to bat for these workers.  Put the heat on John Deere and show the working-class that you’re as tough as Trump when it comes to saving American jobs.  

Your election and the future of our democracy may depend upon it.

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Les Leopold

After graduating from Oberlin College and Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs, Les Leopold co-founded the Labor Institute in 1976, a nonprofit organization that designs research and educational programs on occupational safety and health, the environment, and economics for unions, worker centers, and community organizations. He continues to serve as executive director of the Labor Institute and is currently working to build a national economic educational train-the-trainer program with unions and community groups.

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